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Newport Beach council to consider design for Junior Lifeguards building

The Junior Lifeguards
The Junior Lifeguards program currently operates out of a 2,160-square-foot trailer with no water or sewer system.
(Kevin Chang / Daily Pilot)

Conceptual plans for the new Newport Beach Junior Lifeguards headquarters will soon have their day in the sun when the City Council on Tuesday takes up the proposed project south of the Balboa Pier.

Program backers have pushed for a new headquarters since at least 2011. The Junior Lifeguards program operates out of a 2,160-square-foot trailer with no water or sewer system.

The project was initially deferred in 2017 due to pension costs that strained the city’s budget, then was again benched last year as the city prepared for what was an expected $13.5 million budget shortfall while the pandemic waged on.

If approved, the new headquarters facility will replace the trailer with approximately 5,145 square feet of interior space that will include a meeting room, secure interior and exterior storage spaces, locker rooms, a deck area and a public restroom.

Also up for consideration by the City Council will be a memorandum of understanding between the city and the Newport Beach Junior Lifeguard Foundation. The foundation will be asked to fund raise $1.75 million for construction costs to complement a $2.05 million contribution from the city’s general fund.

A city staff report prepared for Tuesday’s meeting estimates the total cost of the project is $4.9 million. The remaining $1.1 million is proposed to come from an increase in the fees for the Junior Lifeguard program. A $129 subsidy will be removed making the fee $856 per person starting next year. The removal of the subsidy is up to the City Council.

“We’re really excited to get to this phase,” said chief lifeguard Mike Halphide. “What makes this project special is it’s been a cooperative effort not only with the city, but private donors and we also have a potential fee increase for the program to cover the cost [of the building]. It’s the users, the city and private donors.”

“I’m very proud that we’re able to get that sort of support from all facets to make this happen,” said Halphide.

The junior lifeguards program started in 1984 and is active from late June to early August each year. City staff said that the program now employs about 60 instructors and averages over 1,350 participants annually. Last year, the program was almost canceled in response to concerns about safety. Halphide said this year’s first junior lifeguard swim test begins Sunday and that tests will continue at Corona del Mar High School every Sunday throughout March.

City staff said the building will be used by Newport Beach’s recreation and senior services department when it is not being used by the junior lifeguard program.

“The big difference is the building will make for us is it’s going to give us a permanent facility. We’ll have running water and a sanitation station,” Halphide said. “That will be a nice step and it’ll really be an iconic building for the department and for the community.”

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